Johnny’s ultra marathon effort raises £1,600 for Children’s Hospice

Johnny Breen.
Johnny Breen.

A brave Banbridge man who recently attempted to complete a 107-mile run from Belfast to Dublin in aid of charity says he’s looking forward to having another crack at the gruelling challenge next year.

Johnny Breen got agonisingly close to completing this year’s Belfast 2 Dublin Ultra, organised by Atlas Running. But after pounding the roads for 27 hours his body finally gave up - just over 10 miles from the finish line.

Johnny Breen pictured at the start of the Belfast 2 Dublin Ultra.

Johnny Breen pictured at the start of the Belfast 2 Dublin Ultra.

“I got to 96 out of 107 miles and the body just completely gave up unfortunately, so it was a bit frustrating,” he said.

“I have to admit that after 50 miles there wasn’t a huge amount of running done. My feet were in absolute ribbons. I tried to look after them, but they blistered repeatedly.

“I changed my running and walking style, but that just affects your back, your hips and your knees - so that was the knock on effect when the feet started going.”

Johnny was one of around 70 brave competitors who set off from Great Victoria Street in Belfast at noon on Good Friday.

They ran day and night, through Lisburn, Banbridge, Newry, Dundalk, Drogheda and Balbriggan, with just a couple of brief stops to take on food, use the toilet, change clothes and get medical attention if needed.

Despite having been in pain for much of the race, Johnny kept going, but finally had to call it quits near Swords, just north of Dublin.

The 47-year-old, who works as a Regional Fundraiser for the Northern Ireland Hospice, has run a number of marathons in the past, including three last year. And he used his participation in the Belfast 2 Dublin Ultra - his first attempt at running more than marathon distance - to raise around £1,600 for the NI Children’s Hospice.

“I think if you are asking other people to raise money for a cause it’s good to show that you are willing to put yourself out there as well,” he said.

Despite failing to cross the finish line, the former Banbridge Academy pupil isn’t going to let the pain of this year’s race put him off and has already vowed to sign up for another attempt in 2019.

“I’m doing it next year, definitely. Next year it is from Dublin to Belfast which I think will be easier because you’ll be on your way home, you’ll know the way better when it starts getting hard after 60 or 70 miles. You won’t need to look at maps or GPS and the roads will be better,” he continued.

“It was enjoyable, painful, mentally challenging. Over such a long distance there are ebbs and flows of emotions. It’s very challenging, not only to your body but also your head. I know I can do it next year. I want to keep challenging myself, otherwise life gets boring.”

Anyone who would like to support Johnny’s fundraising effort can still do so by donating online at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/johnny-breen5